25 November, 2011

Tink nearly had an epic Thanksgiving.

The Best Parents Ever came up for T-day, and once again Daniel managed to pull off an amazing meal. I did make the cranberry sauce – I am a cranberry sauce purist, using sugar, water, and cranberries. None of your exotic spices for this lady, thanks.

Anyway, we all ate until we were stuffed and everyone who wanted some turkey got some, although in Tink’s case she apparently felt we were being much too slow in delivering the goods because while the human contingent was RIGHT THERE stuffing its faces, Tinks reached up onto the counter, grabbed the nearest bit of turkey carcass, and tried to make off with it.

Rapid intervention by the consternated monkeys meant that she did no more than dump the accumulated Turkey juice all over the cabinet and floor, which we in our magnanimity allowed her to clean up. Well, really, why WOULD I have dogs if I wanted to clean that kind of thing up myself? It’s much easier to just wipe up the dog spit afterward. After our meal, the dogs got turkey, roasted potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, roasted carrots, and cranberry sauce in their bowls. They all thought that was pretty good except Sid, who did NOT like the cranberry sauce. In fact he moved his roasted potato out of his bowl to eat it so he didn’t have to risk his tongue touching the cranberry sauce after his first experimental lick of it.

Today the chickens will get their own feasting in the form of all the vegetable discards, while the rest of us eat turkey and trimmings until we are sick of them. Not that dogs ever get sick of turkey, thank goodness, otherwise we’d never dispose of it all. I feel like I should be doing something productive but I’m not going anywhere NEAR the shopping areas today and I’ve exhausted myself giving Tink and Beo a bath, so I think I’ll just continue to lounge about indolently and enjoy the second of my four days off from work.

11 April, 2011

I’m not sure what’s funnier…

My deep and abiding love of Lady Gaga’s totally fluff pop dance music, or the fact that every time Tink hears any of it, she comes running and is all “HEY MOM LET’S DISCO!”

Yes, discoing with Tink is one of my guilty pleasures. In fact, because it’s so often the only kind of exercise that doesn’t kill me, I’ve now found a lyrical dance class (they didn’t offer “Disco with Dogs”) where the instructor is willing to work with me and my cane and possibly service dog to teach me to dance.

7 April, 2011

Another Dog Song

With apologies to citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (including my patient husband).

God save our gracious Tink
Long live our noble Tink
God save our Tink
Send her victorious,
Mad-teething, glorious
Long to reign o’er us
God save our Tink.

O Tinkerbelle, arise
Scatter your enemies
And make them fall
Mad teeth their slobb’ry licks
Bark at their knavish tricks
On thee our hopes we fix
God save us all! [You have to get the desperation right on this line — A.]

The choicest bones in store
On her we’re pleased to pour
Long may she reign!
May she defend her toys
From Shedder girls and boys
While we sing with heart and voice
God save our Tink!

Not on the chair alone
But be Tink’s bed claims known
From room to room!
Tink’s marv’lous snarling shows
Bone-stealers face her blows
Just leave her things alone
Or meet your doom!

From thieving, hairy foes
From sneaky feline blows
God save our Tink!
O’er her thine arm extend
For our hearts’ sakes defend
Our mad-teethed Queen, and friend
God save our Tink.

(I told you it was slow around here.)

20 March, 2011

Annual reassurance, or Tink Is Not About to Drop Dead.

Tink had her annual physical on Friday afternoon. I sent Daniel with her because I was feeling like flattened death-crap that had been warmed over. The verdict: aside from all her weird Tink-specific medical problems, she is in great physical shape. We have discovered no new weird Tink-specific medical problems that are likely to kill her. Huzzah!

For those of you who are new here (or those who have been around a while and do not keep a catalog of Weird Tink Medical Issues in your head), I always worry about my beautiful silver girl because she’s a picture-perfect example of what happens when you do heavy line-breeding without caring about the health of the dogs in the pedigree. I mean, go six or seven generations out on Siddy and he starts looking like his own grandpa, but those dogs were bred by people who were paying very careful attention to health and working ability, whereas Tink was…not.

So for the record, she has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, aka Rubber Puppy Disease. This is a genetic issue that causes her collagen to be malformed and abnormally fragile. It can have a lot of manifestations, but in Tink it results in skin that will break at the least excuse, joints that tend to be unstable if she doesn’t have good muscle tone (the tendons and ligaments are weaker and stretchier than they should be), and a tendency to get odd skin infections at the drop of a hat (currently we’re arguing with Tinea versicolor). She is microphthalmic, meaning her eyes are too small, and her left eye did not develop correctly and has an optic nerve coloboma, a big honkin pit in the eye with the optic nerve attached at the back of it. Her right eye suffered a retinal tear as a birth injury, which eventually lead first to retinal detachment, rendering that eye completely blind (a damn shame as it had no coloboma) and then a small cataract. Finally, earlier this year it suffered a spontaneous bleed that left it swollen to nearly the normal size of a dog eye, and we had it removed. Generally speaking I go for the least invasive treatment available, but in the case of her right eye a) it was blind already and b) if it was developing spontaneous internal bleeds I did not want to screw around with it and make Tink uncomfortable only to have it removed down the line.

She is also a Diva of the first water, prone to showing off and insisting on being the center of attention. When my friend Christine linked me to this video of a German Shedder learning a prancing heel, my first reaction was “you have to teach that? That’s how Tink walks on leash in public…” She is my beloved heart dog, my snuggly quadrupedal best buddy, and before I would agree to marry Daniel he had to come over here and make sure that Tink approved of him.

So I’m deeply grateful that despite Weird Tink Medical Issues, her heart and lungs and brain and guts are all working just fine, and I’m likely to have her with me for a while yet. She turned six in January and that combined with the mysterious bleed in her right eye had me all freaked out; to hear her vet say that she’s still going strong is therefore a relief. Here’s to many more years together with La Diva Tinkerbella.

19 March, 2011

You learn something new every day.

Yesterday I wound up coming home early because of a headache that was making me nauseated and miserable. They happen. I was kind of bitter about it because for the first time this year it hit 80F and warm weather is my favorite, and there I was in no state to enjoy it.

Anyway, I made it home and staggered and flopped into bed, leaving all the dogs on the other side of a 41″ baby gate (It’s one of these[1] and cool as heck, they have little cat doors in the bottom) so my wonderful husband could rub my neck so I could get to sleep. Unfortunately, Sid was upset by this. He stood outside the bedroom whining and moaning and periodically standing up and putting his front paws on top of the gate and rattling it , the very picture of distressed and affronted service dog candidate. His person was feeling unwell! And here he was with this stupid gate preventing him from sticking his tongue up her nose!

Which is probably why he decided to go over the gate. He did it very neatly, too, one small rattle that sounded like all the other rattles he’d been making in his quest to get into the bedroom. Once inside, he came and stuck his tongue up my nose, and in my ear, and snuffled me extensively to make sure I was going to live, and then he got in his crate. His little world was all right again.

Lesson learned: 40″ baby gates are an agreement between me and Sid, not an actual barrier. Then again I should have known, since Tink has gone over one before. Athletic dogs make life a lot more challengingfun.

[1] SO MUCH FOR THE “TALL 41″ HEIGHT HELPS PREVENT LARGE PETS FROM JUMPING OVER” PART. AT LEAST THEY DON’T DO IT REGULARLY.

15 March, 2011

I am not normally a socially responsible blogger.

Wow. Yesterday’s post on Service Dog Etiquette for the Dog Lover got more hits than anything I have written here with the exception of advertising cats what need homes. I am really seriously flattered that people who have been service dog handlers (of all stripes) for way, way longer than I have felt it was worth linking. I am a noob to having a disability (I spent a few years denying that the chronic pain was chronic — if you ignore it long enough, it goes away, right?) and a noob to being a service dog handler, so I was really kind of worried I would be “stepping on toes” or get something horribly wrong. Much love to the friends who looked it over for me before I posted and gave me helpful hints!

And now, we return to our usual programming, which is to say WHO WANTS SID PICTURES? I knew you did. Sunday was phenomenally warm and sunny and a good day for me pain-wise and balance-wise, so we got outside in the yard and played fetch. I also set up the cheesy home agility set to play with. Sid cannot be inspired to move above a plod, and had a tendency to just plow through the jump. On the other hand, with a clicker and some kibble I had Tink and Beowulf doing Performing Doberman Tricks inside five minutes. I had Beowulf down-stay near the jump at a 90 degree angle to it, and then got Tink to do a beautiful string of jump, turn, jump, turn, jump, leap over Beowulf, skid into a “Sit up and beg” all for a click and a couple kibbles. I think it was because the sun was nice and bright and I took care to tap the crossbar and make sure she noticed it.

Anyway, Sid pictures! My handsome boy.
Sid, a black German Shedder who is 8 months old, trots toward the camera.  His ears are slightly worried, his eyes have some urgency to them, and his cheeks are a little pooched out.  Water drips from his mighty jaws, which are closed.
Here is Sid trying to fetch me a mouthful of water. It did not work out very well for him.

To the left, Zille, a 2 and a half year old sable Shedder, heads out of frame, a ball in her mouth.  Center frame, Sid has a really odd expression on his face and his mouth is half-open.  Anyone who has spent time with dogs will recognize that he is about to try biting Zille on the butt to see what happens.
Here is Sid about to get his ass kicked by Zille.

Center frame, Sid runs joyously toward the camera, his eyes bright and his pink tongue flying.  His course has been carefully plotted to be at 45 degrees to that of Zille, who is just to the viewer's right, trying to get past him so she can return the ball to her person.

9 March, 2011

Rainy Day

Sunday morning was cool and rainy and the dogs (particularly Sid) were bored, so I thought I would get out the tunnel that came with the cheesy home agility kit I’d bought and teach him to go through it. It actually went very well, and I wish I had pics to show you proof of the one time Sid went through the tunnel, but I don’t. Because shortly after Sid’s one trip through, Braxton Bragg realized there was cheese in the tunnel and camped out in it, defending it from all canine comers with swats of his formidable paws.

Braxton, a stocky black cat, stands in a blue vinyl tunnel, looking off to one side and licking his lips.  It is quite clear that no dogs are going to be allowed into the magical cheese-producing tunnel while Braxton has anything to say about it.

Sid tried to enter the end of the tunnel near me, and got swatted for his pains. Tink thought to go to the other end, which Brax wasn’t defending, only to have him stomp to that end of the tunnel and take a swing at her. So it was with great sadness that I turned to asking dogs to down for cheese. In the next photo, you see Tink the Mercenary checking to make sure that I really do have cheese in my hand now that she’s bothered to down. In the background, Zille patiently demonstrates her excellent down-stay, waiting for her turn for more cheese.

Tink is not about to down without a payout.

Tink’s eye socket is looking pretty good these days, as you can see. The swelling is totally gone and the lids are entirely healed together, leaving just a slightly oddly shaped depression where the eye used to be. There’s enough “overhang” from the bone at the edges of her eyesocket that I could probably get a custom-molded piece of something soft and foamy to stay in there, and I am contemplating various devices incorporating LEDs or lasers or something, because the only thing that could possibly be cooler than Tink is “Tink with a laser eye.”

8 March, 2011

What’s in a name?

Siddy’s AKC registration has come through, a process that was a little more fraught on the breeder end than usual what with his parents being foreigners. This is not terribly important to me since he can’t be shown in conformation because of his undescended testicle, and I don’t want to do AKC-sanctioned dog sports with him. Most of them require a lot more mobility than I have, anyway, if you’ve ever watched agility handlers running between obstacles you’d know what I mean.

It does, however, mean I need to pick a registered name for him. Christine, his breeder, is lobbying for his puppy name, so he’d be “Blackthorn’s Obsidian.” I am admittedly willing to run my ideas by her because she does have a vested interest in not having someone run a search for her kennel name and turn up “Blackthorn’s One Ball Wonder” or similar. But it seems so simplistic to use his puppy name when Zille got a fancible new adult registered name (Blackthorn’s Karimihome, because I love the song “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and her puppy name was Karisma, call name “Kari” before she became Zille) and Tink features the ultimate in over-the-top fancible registered names: Fadinha dos Olhos Verdes (“little green-eyed fairy” in Portuguese, her eyes were quite green as a puppy and it ties into the Tink name).

To take the easy way out with Siddy feels to me as if I am failing him somehow, which is silly. His actual name by which he is known and loved at home will continue to be Sid (Siddy, Siddymonster, Oh My God Sid Stop Sucking On Cats) no matter what, because it fits him in some fundamental way. His registered name will have the least effect on his life of any name ever, really, but it does feel like with the previous two dogs I managed to say something about them with their registered names: Tink, even as a pup, was a Diva and required a fancy diva name; Zille is sweet and comforting like the hymn her name is stolen from. This is also what makes Siddy’s registered name hard; I need it to say something about him. About, perhaps, the endless dance of temptation I did around him, eyeing him covetously, until when I heard he hadn’t worked out in his previous home I knew we were fated. Or maybe about the way he loves me, deeply and enthusiastically, a love that expresses itself not only in a quiet lean against me but in rapturous delight to see me again when we have been separated for a whole two minutes because I managed to go pee without him. Possibly his name should say something about his quiet steadfastness, the way he looks at strange new things that are possibly alarming, catalogs them as not something to worry about, and files them away with a total lack of drama.

It’s not, in the end, that “Blackthorn’s Obsidian” is a bad name. It’s that it doesn’t say much about him other than “I am a big black dog”. It doesn’t tell you anything about the imp of joy in his eyes when he climbs up on his rubbermaid box for the one-millionth time, and waits for me to notice and approve, or about the way he inherited his mother’s habit of giving hugs, where he comes and leans his chest into mine and drapes his big ol’ head over my shoulder or arm.

Of course, then I started discussing it with Christine (who is quite partial to “Obsidian”) and she started pointing me toward crystal healing sites. Let me just say that I am personally of the opinion that crystal healing is woo, although woo that is well-intentioned and aims to make people feel better with a minimum of nasty side-effects[1]. But anyway, what they had to say about the rock known as obsidian was things like this:

Obsidian helps to protect the very sensitive against depression. It is the stone of the soft hearted and gentle people of the world. Use obsidian to help block negativity of any kind. As a black gemstone, it symbolizes self control and resilience. Black stones have protective energies in the sense that black is the absence of light, and therefore, can be used to create invisibility. Source

Obsidian is truth-enhancing. A strongly protective stone, it forms a shield against negativity. It blocks psychic attack and absorbs negative energies from the environment. Obsidian draws out mental stress and tension. It stimulates growth on all levels, urging exploration of the unknown and opening new horizons. Brings clarity to the mind and clears confusion. Helps you to know who you truly are. Obsidian dissolves emotional blockages and ancient traumas. Promotes qualities of compassion and strength.

Obsidian aids the digestion and detoxifies. It reduces arthritis pain, joint problems and cramps. Warms the extremities.

Black Obsidian is a very powerful and creative stone. It increases self-control. It forces facing up to one’s true self. Releases imbalances and negative energies. Black Obsidian is protective and provides support during change. It repels negativity and disperses unloving thoughts. Source

Leaving a chunk of Obsidian by the door ensures visitors rubbish remains outside your abode.

Using it personally, you are able to work through karmic issues, make sure you are truly ready to deal with them as Obsidian is very to the point one might say.

Many use this stone for protection.

It can be used to remove negative energy from the body, to this point it also works as a pain killer.

In elixir form it balances the mental and emotional sides. It is also a good anti virus and inflammation crystal. Source

Incidentally, according to that last one, an “elixir” is what you get from letting a chunk of rock sit in water for at least a couple hours so the water picks up the rock’s “vibrations”. Right.

So there is a good case to be made for sticking with “Obsidian.” Although given that today he partially demolished a wire crate in a fit of pique because we zip-tied the thing together after he learned to disengage the front panel and let himself out, I’m highly tempted to go with “Blackthorn’s Obsidian Wrecking Ball.” Ah, puppies.

[1] OH GOD THE THINGS I COULD TELL YOU ABOUT NASTY SIDE EFFECTS. LAST WEEK I HAD A BOUT OF HORRIFYING PAIN THAT MY DOC AND I ATTEMPTED TO MANAGE WITH VICODIN WHICH WORKED PRETTY WELL UNTIL I HIT MY OPIATE SATURATION POINT AND STARTED VOMITING. AND THE DAILY DRUG I TAKE TO MANAGE MY AVERAGE PAIN LEVELS DOES AMAZINGLY AWFUL THINGS TO MY BALANCE. PHARMACEUTICALS AND I HAVE A LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIP.

27 February, 2011

We can never paint that door frame again.

Last night while waiting for the arrival of the Best Mother Ever, I got the bright idea to definitively measure dogs by pinning them up against the door frame between kitchen and living room and marking their heights with a pencil (first we wanted to use our front one got from Uk Oak Doors… but it’s just too great to be marked). This could have gone more smoothly. Zille came right to me, stood in place, and let herself be measured. So did Sid. So did Beowulf. Tink on the other hand first tried hunching her back to make herself taller, and then when I sighed and begged her to behave, she extended her front legs and made herself shorter. A few moments of wrestling my recalcitrant dog later, I had my pencil marks and got out the tape measure and recorded their heights on the wall.

I was so pleased with the result that I went over them with a Sharpie to immortalize them. Sid’s is the only one with a date, because Sid is still growing. I figure I’ll measure him once a month or so and keep track of his continued progress.

A section of narrow white wall with writing on it in black marker.  The highest mark is Beowulfs, at thirty and three-quarters inches.  Next down is Tink at twenty-eight and one-eighths inches.  Then comes Zille, at twenty-four and one-quarter inches, and finally Sid at twenty-three and three-quarters inches.

26 February, 2011

Many different dogs make a good trainer.

I hope so, anyway. My dogs have hilariously different approaches to being clicker-trained, which means that if I rapidly switch between dogs I have a tendency to get discombobulated.

The www.zerowasteusa.com/Complete-Dog-Waste-Stations-Prodlist.html has been helping communities manage dog waste for almost 20 years! We used our expertise to create a line of pet waste stations and bags that are both well designed and cost effective!

Tink, for instance, throws behaviors at you in rapid-fire sequence. I once watched her teach a trainer with over a decade of experience to click her for sitting up and begging instead of doing a plain sit, just through sheer speed — the trainer could never manage to click Tink when she had both front feet on the floor. She is constantly in motion, so it’s hard to select just the response you want, since you have to have sharp eyes and fast reflexes to get a click in there.

Beowulf has a tendency to just freeze in place. I need to do “101 things to do with a box” with him, just to get him used to the notion that a click does not mean “stop right where you’re at”. On the other hand, the dog has a KILLER stay.

Sid is fun to train but I have to be careful free-shaping him. As I discovered tonight while working on teaching him to pick up my keys, if he doesn’t get a click when he thinks he should, he checks out and goes to lie down on his bed and sulk. I have to either very carefully and very slowly ratchet up my criteria for him, or adopt a variable-amount reward so that he gets, say, one kibble for hovering his nose over the keys, but four or five if he licks the keys.

My keys, incidentally, are kind of slobbery after the last training session. It’s a little gross.

In other news, the dogs’ new tags from Down 2 Earth Jewelry got here and are hanging from their collars. They are gorgeous little things and I must get pics. I informed Sid that now that he’s officially wearing his “co-pilot” tag, he must be a Good Boy all the time.

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